Electronic reminders help reduce risk of surgical site infections

Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin found electronic reminders an effective way to get patients to adhere to a preadmission antiseptic showering regimen shown to help reduce risk of surgical site infections (SSIs).

To help reduce the risk of infection, surgical patients are instructed to take antiseptic showers with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) 24 to 48 hours before admission, yet they often forget.

A group of 80 healthy volunteers in the study were divided into four groups, according to an announcement. Two groups (A1 and A2) showered twice and two groups (B1 and B2) showered three times. Groups A1 and B1 were prompted to shower by an electronic alert such as a text message, an email or a voicemail, while Groups A2 and B2 did not receive an electronic prompt.

Participants were instructed to return to the laboratory within three hours of their last shower to have their skin-surface concentrations of CHG analyzed. In Group A, researchers found a 66 percent reduction in mean concentration of CHG on those who received no reminder compared with those who did. In Group B, the difference was 67 percent.

The reminders can be an important way to make the patient an intimate partner in the surgeon's risk-reduction strategy, wrote lead study author Charles E. Edmiston, Ph.D., professor of surgery and hospital epidemiologist at Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

The study, published at the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, did not address whether electronic reminders and better compliance actually translate to lower SSI rates--only the effect on patient compliance.

Surgical-site infections make up a third of the $9.8 billion that hospital-acquired infections cost each year and account for for 20 percent to 31 percent of healthcare-associated infections in hospitalized patients.

Though the rate of SSIs after ambulatory surgery was found to be low, the absolute number of patients with these complications is substantial, illustrating the need for quality improvement, according to a study at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To learn more:
- read the research
- here's the announcement

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